Friday, November 11, 2011

Flying with gifts: tips on how to make it easier

As it gets closer to the big holiday season, lots of people all over the world will be traveling to visit family and friends. And often, because 'tis the season to give presents, a lot of people will be traveling with numerous gifts in their luggage.

If you're traveling by plane to your destination, this might mean heavy suitcases, and potential trouble at the airport with extra fees and security.

In Sweden, Santa shows up in person on Christmas Eve to deliver the presents.

I will be heading to Sweden for Christmas with my own family later this year, and when you have kids, it's hard to curb the urge to bring presents along even when you know it's not totally rational to do so.

Here are some of my tips on how to make air-travel in the gift-giving season a little smoother:

  • Don't wrap the gifts - If your luggage is opened by airport security, they will unwrap the presents and the whole ordeal will just take longer and likely be more stressful. Besides, the presents will look nicer if they're "freshly wrapped" at your destination.
  • Bring presents that are easy to pack - This is an easy one. Avoid gifts that are fragile, very large, or very bulky. And hey, gift certificates, jewellery, and books are pretty easy to pack after all...
  • Leave some presents at home - For example, when my family travel away from home over Christmas, my husband and I usually leave a couple of large, bulky presents at home before we go. Then the kids can open them when we get back home, even if it's after Christmas. We usually say that Santa delivered them to Canada rather than Sweden...
  • Shop for presents at your destination - When I travel to Sweden over Christmas, I find that this can actually be a lot of fun. It also makes it easier to buy gifts like electronics and appliances, since North American electronics and appliances are not usually compatible with European electrical outlets. And if you buy presents for your kids at your destination, you at least only have to carry them in your luggage on the return journey!
  • Buy presents on board, or at the airport's tax-free shops - Depending on what airline you travel with, and what airports you go through, you can find some excellent deals. Also, some airlines like Iceland Air and KLM allow you to shop online before your trip, and will then deliver the items to you on your flight. This can be a very handy service!
Also, make sure you don't travel with any prohibited items 
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States has a handy list of holiday-related items and whether they can go in your hand luggage or be put into your checked luggage.
  • There are also many items that are prohibited on planes. Both the TSA and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), as well as similar authorities in other countries, provide extensive and detailed lists of such items.
  • In many countries, there are restrictions on what kind of food items can be brought in from abroad. Check before you go to make sure any edible gifts you bring are OK. The rules vary depending on your destination, but here are links to the regulations for the European Union, the United States and Canada.

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